In January 2015 the Government announced proposals to bring forward new planning laws to secure the future of public houses. Planning laws will be changed to ensure pubs cannot be demolished or have their use converted without securing planning permission.

Currently public houses can be registered as an asset of community value (ACV) by local interest groups. When an ACV is put up for sale there is a six month period in which the local community can bid to purchase the property.  

Despite this right to bid (sometimes referred to as a right to buy), communities may still lose their public house because of current planning laws. At the moment assets of community value are subject to permitted development rights. This means that the change of use or demolition of a pub could have automatic approval and does not require planning permission. Click here for information on a Cambridge pub that changed use to a furniture store. 

However the Government intends to introduce legislation which removes these permitted development rights for pubs listed as an ACV. Consequently any change of use or demolition of public houses will require a planning application and permission. This will close a loophole that previously allowed owners to automatically change use, for example from a public house to a retail shop.

The Department for Communities and Local Government have issued a press release on this issue. MP Kris Hopkins made clear that “communities should be given the right to consider planning applications when changes are proposed to the use of their listed locals.” The new laws would mean members of a local community can offer their opinion on planning applications. In addition planning authorities could properly consider the application in light of local policy.

More than 600 public houses have already been listed as assets of community value and the change in planning law will help to bolster protection afforded to the industry. The news arrives shortly after the unveiling of a code of practice for tied leases in pubs. Together these represent a significant move designed to protect public house properties. New secondary legislation is expected shortly to effect these changes.